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LMFAO song-theft case to be split into two court hearings

By | Published on Monday 18 February 2019


A judge has decided that the long running copyright battle over the similarities between LMFAO’s 2010 hit ‘Party Rock Anthem’ and Rick Ross’s 2006 track ‘Hustlin’ should be split into two. First there will be a court hearing over whether or not the plaintiff’s in the case have the right to litigate. If they do, a second court hearing will then consider the copyright arguments at the heart of the dispute.

It was Ross who first accused LMFAO of ripping off his track, because ‘Party Rock Anthem’ has the line “everyday I’m shuffling”, while in ‘Hustlin’ there’s the lyric “everyday I’m hustlin”. Legal action followed, though the lawsuits got caught up in all sorts of technicalities over the registration and ownership of the copyright in Ross’s work.

Earlier this year the judge overseeing the case decided that Ross himself had given up his rights in the song so couldn’t actually sue LMFAO. But there remained some ambiguity as to whether his co-writers – Andrew Harr and Jermaine Jackson – retained their slice of the copyright. If they did, they could sue.

Which meant that the whole case could proceed with Harr and Jackson as the plaintiffs. But, once that case got to court, there’d be two things to answer. First, did Harr and Jackson retain their rights? Secondly, is the line “everyday I’m hustlin” protected by copyright and, if so, does the line “everyday I’m shuffling” infringe said copyright.

Lawyers for the LMFAO side then argued that question one should be relatively easy to deal with once in court, requiring about three to five people to testify. But the other question is much more complex requiring about 40 testimonies. However, the second question might not even need to be asked, depending on how the first question is answered.

To that end, splitting the two elements of the case into two separate court hearings makes sense. Though, according to Law 360, the judge – Kathleen M Williams – expressed concern that, if the first of those hearings resulted in a lengthy appeal, the split could greatly delay getting any resolution on this dispute.

Legal reps for both sides admitted that, if the answer to question one is that Harr and Jackson cannot sue, that ruling will likely result in an appeal. But if stage one rules that the two men do have legal standing, then the case will likely proceed to the trickier second stage without appeal, so on balance the split approach was the better one.

And that’s what Williams ultimately agreed to. The current aim is to have the first court hearing in April and the second in June.